By Megha Bajaj May 2008 Nothing is more fulfilling than a day well lived. here are some incredible ideas to add life to your days, and days to your life I wake up and make breakfast for my husband, then I watch TV until lunch time after which I feel so sleepy that I doze off till tea-time; evenings are spent on the phone or shopping, and by then it’s time for dinner,” answered a cousin when I asked her about her day. Long after she left, her unanimated countenance and deadpan tone stayed in my mind and poked at my peace. Was this the same girl so passionate about her profession that even Sundays would see her go for extra classes to add to her knowledge? When was all the enthusiasm wiped off the face which used to glow with the thrill of meeting new people, learning novel skills, and living a fresh day, every day? She was married into a loving but orthodox family a year ago, and asked to discontinue her job, but could three hundred odd days of not working alter one so much? With this question in my mind, I became a silent observer of lives around me. The answers were stunning. I realised that many people who seemed to be unenthusiastic about life were the ones whose idle minds had indeed become the devil’s workshops! In fact, the devil had knocked in several negative emotions like frustration, irritation, anxiety, inferiority and a constant feeling of worthlessness too. The first in line were the housewives who, in fulfilling the various roles of their lives – daughter-in-law, wife and mother – had forgotten what being in their own skin, being their own self meant. I am not deriding homemakers or scoffing at the importance of their presence in our lives – my mother was one, and the time she invested on me in my growing years was as crucial as is the cocoon to the caterpillar in its journey to becoming a butterfly – yet with some creative career options she could have managed both family and personal growth. After all, life can be this and that, not this or that. My mother discovered this law recently, and is now filling her life with wonderful activities of which you will read below; hopefully my cousin too will soon drive the devil out. No retiring from lifeThe second category of people most affected by this no-work disease are silver citizens who have chosen to retire. They believe this period will give them peace of mind, a time to repose, but studies point to the contrary as most of them fall prey to anxiety, health obsession and the thought that they are a worthless burden on their children. In her book, Continuum concept, Jean Liedloff speaks about her experience of living with Stone Age communities in the jungles of South Africa who made no distinction between the words, play and work. They were, she writes, “a bunch of the happiest people,” she knew, and the young and the old, all did what they could according to their capacity. Inherently, they seemed to understand that there was no separate time for work, which would be stressful and tiring or play which would be fun and relaxing; rather, everything was to be enjoyed with equal enthusiasm. How true is the adage, the man who enjoys his work, will never work again. To add to it, the man who enjoys his work, will never retire. Luckily there are enough options for these silver citizens to play their second innings – possibly with even more panache than they did the first one. Youngsters, in their first few years of college, are also prone to the idle epidemic. Most college timings vary between three to four hours and the rest of the day is left free. Most students while away this extra time in gossiping, hours of senseless net chatting and often befriending alcohol and cigarettes as antidotes to boredom. Rashmi Aggarwal, a student of St Xavier’s college, Mumbai, remarks, “I am so bored of having fun!” And yet work to most (like me) at that stage appears a drudgery to be endured after a few years. So often we don’t realise how enjoyable, and remunerative, certain courses and jobs at this time could be. ‘Work’ need not necessarily mean a job, which is lucrative. Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Working with NGOs serving those in need can be the most wonderful use of one’s day. Most such activities require no skills, the desire is enough. And the pay-off? Oh, it’s much more than money, confirm those who have tried it. One may ask, “Being lazy, gossiping, drinking alcohol, and watching TV all day is such an easy option. It’s so comfortable doing nothing, and I don’t need the money so why should I work?” I too, had asked this a few years ago, caught in the web of tamas or inertia. The answers were varied but each helped me break free. Every spiritual path believes that losing oneself in dharma or right action is pure devotion, and quickens one’s journey to enlightenment. For isn’t it true that when we are involved completely in a right action, we start living in the moment – forgetting the past and the future? Celebrated author Eckhart Tolle endorses this experience saying, “True salvation is, above all, freedom from past and future as a psychological need.” Right actionAnother advantage of right action is that it helps in forgetting oneself. Gurus across aeons have stated that ‘I’ is the biggest wall between self and divinity. You may have experienced an oblivion to the ‘I’ when keenly absorbed in a worthwhile activity. So again, right action brings one closest to divinity. As I write, I pre-empt a question from youngsters, having been a very confused one myself until very recently. Sleeping, drinking alcohol, meaningless entertainment also brings one to the present moment; it too helps one forget oneself for the moment – so is it not also close to Godliness? The answer I discovered was that at the beginning of any of these activities and at the end of it, nothing about me changed, in fact something worsened; but when I was involved in dharma, something inherently renovated. Both alcohol and meditation give me a high – but after a few hours of drinking, I was still the same person (with a weaker liver!); with just a few minutes of meditation, something within, knowingly, and often unknowingly, transformed. There is nothing as energising as occupying ourselves in the right action that helps enhance either the self, or using the self to enhance another. How wonderful it would be to have so much to say to God, when he asks at the final destination, “So how was it? What all did you do with the time you had?” Refuse to let lack of opportunities remain an excuse. Here below is a rich haul of options, most of which are accessible to members from the three groups, though categorised separately. Some mentioned below can bring you money, many can help you grow and yet others can gift you the very elusive peace of mind. Use them and open an exciting new chapter of your life. Homemakers, ahoy!Professor R S S Mani, CEO of a Mumbai-based career counselling centre, says, “It’s a pity to see so many housewives wasting their talents when institutes like SNDT, Mumbai offer a wide range of interesting courses – ranging from nutrition to jewellery designing – that are inexpensive and flexible about timing. They can be used to learn skills which could be both exciting as well as profitable.” Neeta Lulla, the renowned design maestro of Bollywood began her career after studying fashion from SNDT. When she married psychiatrist Dr Lulla, like most women, she believed it was the end to her education and left it all. However, her supportive husband and in-laws encouraged her to start over with the course of her choice in SNDT. She chose fashion, balanced college and family, carving a unique place for herself in either sphere. The rest, as always, is history. My mother realised the value of life, only after conquering a seemingly life threatening disease a couple of years ago. Everything altered. She says, “I realised I can best love others, if I first love myself; the guilt of having my own life has transformed into pride at being my own person.” Once a week we watch her go to an NGO called Progressive Women’s Welfare Society, which conducts a survey across the city identifying needy people, who, with some non-monetary help, can enjoy a better lifestyle. Objects like sweaters, blankets, books, vessels and others are distributed. A group of committed women are involved in the process of survey, collection and distribution. Another activity that absorbs her is going to a nearby hospital and counselling patients – offering them both information and inspiration, along with a living example of a woman who didn’t allow breast cancer to spell death for her. These days, mother’s face seems to emit a quiet strength arising from the knowledge that she is the cause for a few smiles every day. Housewife Sunita Didwania cannot go out much due to a physical constraint, and yet she has come up with several unique ways of filling her days with fun and development. She shares, “I got together with a group of friends and started a creative writing class at home. An expert came and taught several of us the art of expressing ourselves through words. It was an enriching experience – and I am now looking forward to writing small columns for newspapers and magazines.” Books too are sipped upon eagerly and very soon, Sunita is thinking of joining one of the many book clubs that small groups start to read and discuss quality books. She also has the option of becoming a member of India Today book club. The aim of the club is to bring good quality, unique and wide collection of books, at heavy dis
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